GILLES GARACHON, the newly appointed French ambassador to Bangkok, has expressed sympathetic views on Thailand's ongoing political transition towards a democratic path, saying the current regime led by Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha was considered "mo
The envoy, previously French ambassador to the Philippines, told The Nation in an interview he had observed some restraint in the use of power by the Prayut government over the past year and a half.
The military took over the country’s administration following the May 22, 2014 coup.
Garachon, who first visited Thailand as a tourist back in 1972, said France cared about human rights, but he had not noticed events that were worrisome during this transition period.
“We respect the Thai choice [the 20-month-long road map to return to democracy under which the general election would be held in mid-2017],” he said.
According to the envoy, the current Thai political situation is not “too bad” when compared to that of other countries in Asean.
He said he had seen several regimes take over Thailand’s governance since the 1970s and witnessed the country’s successful return to social stability following serious domestic political conflict.
“Thais had a good sense of balance in dealing with tough times. The country always found the right solutions for national and international conflict,” he said, referring to those involving neighbouring countries such as Cambodia, Burma and Vietnam’s boat people back in the 1970s.
On the economic front, Garachon said the prolonged economic slump in the 28-country European Union, of which France is a key member, has led to negative consequences for the Thai, Chinese and other Asian economies.
However, he was still upbeat about the growth prospects for bilateral trade between Thailand and France, which totalled 3.7 billion euros in 2014.
He noted that the French economy, the second largest euro-zone economy after Germany, was recovering from the euro-zone crisis and expected to grow |by 1-2 per cent this year.
On tourism, the envoy expected the number of French tourists to Thailand to top 1 million in the next 1-2 years after reaching an annual 800,000 recently.
“French companies such as Bouygues, L’Oreal, Accor, Michelin and Total want to gain more market share in Thailand and the Asean Economic Community. We hope the EU and Thailand will resume negotiations on the Free Trade Area agreement as soon as possible,” he said.
On last week’s 2015 UN Climate Change Conference or COP 21 in Paris, which was attended by Prayut, he said: “We’re the first generation of humankind to witness the impact of economic development on the environment. If we don’t change, the price [of environmental damage] will be paid by our children.”
Experts have urged the world community to take action to reduce CO2 and other emissions from the use of fossil energy so as to keep the average global temperature from rising by more than two degrees Celsius over the next several decades.
The envoy called for the adoption of a new economic development model which is more sustainable – by abandoning the “use and throw-away” consumption style and embracing the “recycled” economic and consumption model. In the process, there will be numerous business opportunities for green products and services, he said.